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Children have tough career choices

By James Maina | May 1st 2015 | 3 min read

This school vacation has provided excellent opportunities for me to catch up with my children and relate with their challenges, dreams and aspirations. However, "challenges and aspirations" may apply only to Russell and Tiffany because looking at Jimmy, there is nothing other than dreams to talk about.

Over the years, I have observed Jimmy's "aspirations" with a mixture of amusement and growing concern. Granted, some of his aspirations are quite realistic, but the rest are pure dreams; meaning you have to be asleep to believe them. For instance, he recently stated that his ambition is to become a "social media expert".

"When shall you come up with a serious goal?" I growled, but Mama Jimmy asked me not to push him, arguing that he is "only a child." Well, I would only agree that Jimmy is a child if I hadn't caught him a few weeks ago shaving his imaginary moustache with my prized Gillete razor.

I used to ignore him when, as a small boy, his only wish was to become a "megastar" or "billionaire tycoon", whatever that meant. As the adage goes, one must aim at the sun so as to reach the moon. However, Jimmy's adage goes that you need to aim for the moon and never take off from earth at all!

Tiffany has clung on to her dream of becoming a supermodel, a goal that I find consistent with her status as a kindergartener. Russell, however, has revised his goals during this holiday.

"Daddy, I want to join the GSU once I complete school," he announced over dinner on Sunday evening. He has in the past few weeks developed an obsession with the dreaded police unit, following its sterling performance in the war against terror.

"Are you sure? Have you thought carefully about it?" Mama Jimmy gasped, but the boy remained unmoved. A thin, self-important smile mechanized on his lips, and the look on his face made it clear that he had firmly settled for a career in law enforcement.

"Mimi lazima nitakuwa commando," he returned boldly, while wearing his newly acquired "sura ya kazi" look. There is plenty of prestige in the GSU, he said, as well as the opportunity to serve and protect his homeland.

At this, I slumped on the couch in deep thought, mulling over this remark from my wannabe commando. As a parent, I certainly would love to have a highly trained hero in my lineage, but I wasn't sure if the boy knew what it takes to join the police. Thus, I shared a few insights on police work, just so he may know what he was wishing for. For starters, I told him that police work demands a level of discipline that is hardly equaled in civilian institutions. For this, one undergoes a grueling nine months of basic training.

"Ah, I'm sure to qualify," he bragged. "I have been leading my class since standard one."

"Well, it isn't as simple as that, sonny boy," I said with a smile, cautioning him against banking solely on his academic prowess. For instance, there is a minimum height required of all police candidates. You must also be of sound mind, able to run long distances, have a clean police record and have all your teeth intact.

Mama Jimmy had been listening to our conversation all along, and she chipped in at this point. In her opinion, our police force is not among highly paying careers.

"Have you seen the conditions some askaris live in? Haven't you seen how badly some police families are housed?" she exclaimed, almost making me laugh. Having keenly followed the ongoing police vetting exercise, I feel the police service is among the most rewarding employers in our country. Yes, our officers may not all live in the best of houses, and they may not be the best paid in the world, but such challenges have not barred the more enterprising officers from succeeding in life. Some have invested in small grocery stores, food kiosks and similar hustles, from which they have made staggering amounts of money in very short periods!

Whatever career paths they take, I pray that my children will achieve their goals in life.

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